Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ortega-Lopez v. Lynch (9th Cir. - Aug. 23, 2016)

The question is whether cockfighting is categorically a crime of moral turpitude such that it gets you deported and ineligible for relief.

The particular case isn't an especially heinous one either.  Judge Owens artfully puts it this way, the first sentence of which (especially the parenthetical) brought a smile to my face:

"[Defendant] was hardly the Don Corleone (or even the Fredo) of this enterprise. Rather, as the government’s sentencing position detailed: 'his involvement in the overall crime was relatively minor compared to' the other defendants in the case. His punishment—one year of probation with no jail time—reflected his limited culpability. He has no other convictions."

Fredo.  Too funny.

One other portion of the opinion also curled the sides of my mouth upward, albeit less intentionally.  In the midst of holding the cockfighting is probably not categorically a crime of moral turpitude, Judge Owens says:  "Congress has declared cockfighting a scourge that warrants prosecution, and we have no quarrel with that."  A sentiment that I personally happen to agree with.

But then he drops a footnote that says:  "Unlike dogfighting, which is illegal everywhere in the United States, cockfighting remains legal in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands."  Well, yeah.  That footnote seems an important caveat.  Especially when the relevant inquiry includes the fact that "[t]he BIA defined moral turpitude as “'conduct which is inherently base, vile, or depraved, and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society in general.'"  If there are jurisdictions in the United States that allow the thing, that's some evidence that it's not necessarily "contrary to the accepted rules of morality," no?